Or, “ DON’T YOU HAVE TO KNOW SOME THINGS BEFORE YOU CAN USE THEM?”
Anyone with a passing interest in education, mainly primary and secondary education, knows about the great controversies surrounding the previous administration’s push for ‘Excellence in Ed’ known as NoChildLeftBehind. The funny thing about it of course is that these days it is all ‘Bush’s fault’. Yes, holding students and teachers accountable was a noble idea and brought a hearty “Huzzah!” when the late, great Teddy Kennedy co-sponsored the push. Today, Teddy gets none of the blame for whatever real or perceived ills are associated with NCLB. That’s because Teddy, RIP, is dead and because those trying to push the kinder, gentler, more feeling-oriented trend in education, regardless of how they try to characterize it, would have a hard time reconciling the Progressive Socialist Democrat’s alliance with G.W. Bush.
Hoping for a change, teachers, and gullible state governments, nowadays are signing on in droves to the New Ideal, the “Common Core” initiative of the Obama/Duncan Dynasty. A report on it and some illustrative examples can be found here. You don’t have to be a PHD to parse the article and note that ‘Common Core’ bears little resemblance to ‘the Three R’s’. Common Core is a thinly-veiled scheme to deny the youth of tomorrow any significant amount of exposure to the vast storehouse of knowledge accumulated through the years in favor of some sort of ‘immersive’ learning designed to make kids ‘feel’ things about subjects, or manipulate subjects, rather than learn them. If you want to read more about Common Core you can go to the DOE website and read cool slogans and edu-isms like “Universal Design”, “Multiple Means”, “Alternatives” and “Tap into learners’ interests”.
In addition to that, the subliminal message is that “Kids, it’s all about you!” As if we haven’t had enough of that in the last four decades, the learning experience now is building on the vanities associated with pushing kids to be the ‘deciders’ in matters of environmental and social ‘justice’, multiculturalism and diversity, globalism and all that rot.
The most insidious part of it all, though, is how easily those who fancy themselves as teachers buy into the program. The example given in the article, a certain Mr. Riesenfeld who teaches tenth grade history in Long Island, NY, is painfully instructive. This is what cheerfully accepting the Common Core standards has reduced Mr. Riesenfeld’s history classes to:
Because they require more depth in some areas, he said, the standards have forced him to focus more on teaching students to read and write about a handful of “significant topics” in world history.
There’s a great big world out there, with thousands of years of history, and Mr. Riesenfeld is reduced to exposing them to a handful of significant events. He “often pushes students to read more closely and analytically.” Well, isn’t that swell? Tenth-graders being really “analytical”. About a “handful of significant events”. Shame they aren’t learning World History. But there just isn’t time to learn World History because Mr. Riesenfeld has honed Common Core standards into this fine art:
Occasionally, a class will spend an entire period analyzing a single paragraph. “In effect, they’re learning how to use materials rather than just answer question a, b, c and d,” he said.
As a result, Riesenfeld said, his history students often look and sound as if they’re in an English class.
One reads something like that and is moved to tears at what has become of education in America. We have to crawl before we can walk and the amount of money spent and resources wasted trying to bypass natural law in the field of learning, of any kind, is the biggest scandal in the history of this country. How can one proceed with clarity and (presumably) noble purpose when one does not have…..the facts? The question is just that basic. We don’t know what’s in the textbooks Mr. Riesenfeld uses, but we do hope they contain more than a handful of significant events in World History and we do hope his students actually read them.
Mr. Riesenfeld admits that he is not teaching his students World History, but rather is teaching them “how to use materials”. Now, and this person’s formal education preceeded Common Core by a decade or so, but does everyone recall the columnist (if we remember correctly, it was the twenty-something Ezra Klein of Washington Post fame) who derided the US Constitution as being some old-fashioned document that is “over a hundred years old”? Mr. Klein hasn’t a clue about the a,b,c,d questions referred to by Mr. Riesenfeld above, but he has heard about the Constitution and knows how to “use the material”, albeit in a manner that exposes him as a dunce. Not the Titusville Tattler, people, the Washington Post. And the man’s tweets are posted in influential blogs.
Folks, may we suggest that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. If there isn’t time to teach World History in World History class, except for a handful of “significant events”, there will come a time when even the Constitution itself won’t be included in that handful of significant events; probably not even in American History class.
Mr. Riesenfeld is not a bad person. Mr. Riesenfeld thinks he is doing great things by his students. But Mr. Riesenfeld says he teaches World History and then admits that he actually doesn’t teach World History. We don’t know what that makes Mr. Riesenfeld, but if it makes him a teacher…..that’s bad.